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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 26, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT

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good evening, from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. we are glad you are joining us with our actress with the conversation in just a moment. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. please welcome our actress tonight stars in the amc's hit series, "the walking dead" which kicks off his eighth season. you are now seeing from "the walking dead." i know you wanted to go with them. i did, too. >> everything hurts.
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>> help me? >> oh yeah, this is your show. >> okay, we'll see. >> your hair style is just a little different. [ laughter ] >> i left that one at home. >> you left that one at home? >> is this like the most popular show in the world? >> i guess, i will go with what you said, it is just amazing. >> but, a chance to be in a show that's celebrated in this country and seen around the world is a big deal. i consistently pinched myself and i step into it in a place of wanting to be apart of something
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that's rigorous and truthful. for me, that question, you signing the contract that could be a seven years thing. you want to make sure it is something that feels right to you and that's important to me. it feels so right when i watched up to season two. it was just -- the right elements were in place for you to feel really fulfilled as an artist. >> what was those elements for you as an artist? >> there was a lot of overlaps as who i was as a play write. >> and really my character who i found really fascinating, who is this woman who had dread locks
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and i was like i have never seen this before and i was intrigued by her. she turned into her own weapon of war and working against them but not of their making. there was so many overlaps that i found that was connected of the story that tells who recollects would you be. the premise of the clips and "the walking dead" is over lapingly identical in that way. >> you are very modest. your stuff have been nominated as i last saw you. we'll come to that in a second to your stage work. since you made that parallel, we'll come to your play in the humanity in that, for you, though, what was the humanity play in your role on "the walking dead"? >> what did you discover or see there? >> the beauty of her was that
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she comes onto the scene and she brings a whole new element to the sister ari telling. we meet rick and his family and family and friends and the people he ends up connecting with. we meet them at the beginning of this civilization moment. we see them taking their initial steps on how they navigate this new world. with her, we meet her after a navigation have been happening for a while. we meet her in her kind of post ptsd. she's really in ptsd but we are seeing her navigating that in a way that's involved and shutting down emotionally and deciding to be her own weapon of war and figured out her own way through without connecting to people. she really cut-off from humanity and protecting herself from a wall. she's as different segment of the experience coming into people we have been getting to know since the moment things went riot. i found it fascinating and a
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journey for her to take as a character where she reconnects to her humanity and faces the fears and trauma of her past and choose to navigate in the future and fight for one. piecing those things together and knowing that she's going to have to go through the journey as a character but she's starting off very stoic and disconnected and being able to communicate and share her traumas or to connect with other people again, you know, and really being kind of -- she was disarming to so many people. you could not read her. pshy i found her, you know, she was kind of that person you are like -- i don't know if i should mess with her or talk to this person. [ laughter ] >> it was interesting to play that. i that was very interesting to navigate. >> speaking of story, so now rick wants to fight. >> yes, yes.
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you know and it is a very interesting arc and concerning rick of the fact that she's now in a relationship with this man who was pretty much antagonist towards her from the beginning. she knew he was a good guy from the start. now they have a community and a place to live resembles civilizations and along comes the scariest and protagonist or antagoni antagonist yet in neegan. >> for anybody who has not yet seen "the walking dead" but sees stuff about it and reads stuff about it and heard everybody talks about it. how would you describe a person who never seen it? >> oh my god, we were asked to do that on our 100th episode and none of us could do it.
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>> they want us to do it in 30 seconds or less. it was a joke. >> start the clock everybody. it is the story and it is classic at the begin, it starts off with rick grimes and he's a sheriff of a small town in rural georgia. he gets shot and when he gets up, the world has changed. the humanity is hit by a virus and causing people to be a walker, zombiezombies. >> zombies, we don't use that word on the show. if after the pilot, you will be hooked with the show. it grapples with the loss and fear and confusion. lenny james and andrew lincoln
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meeting up and his wife has turned into a walker and she's walking around outside and the pain of that loss, we see pictures of her when she was alive and well and now she's just a mindless zombie and mr. lincoln's character trying to come out and finding the family and they're gone and the town is empty and lenny james ends up helping him and he takes that navigation to find his family. that's how the story began. he meets fellow survivors and find his family and a lot of loss and pain. the premise of the world is no t allowing people to die often. you know a lot of our characters have -- we stayed connected as a family but we lost a lot of characters because the premise demands it. >> for those three people that have not seen "the walking dead," gear up.
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>> who's counting? >> you did a fine job. >> let me go back to your playwright. >> that had to be amazing for you. >> that was a pinch me moment. that journey was so epic. i was onto my fourth at that point. i created that in 2009 and 2008 and it had a really great life in regional theaters. >> uh-huh. >> one of the regional theaters we had an original production and it was yale repertory where
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lupita going to the repertory. i knew her before but we connected much more during the process and i kept on trying to use her for my plays and she was in school. this is also perfect for me and how do we strategize? as an african, you had to go get a degree. there were many times i want to pull her out and use it for the works. she loves to plan and she had a deep connection to it. us, female director and female cast, we game very close sisters and you know she told me after everything happened when she graduated, everything happened was "12 years of slave" was so fast, she told me she really wants to go back to the stage. that's how that round of clips
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came to pass. i told them the producer coming at me, not without the director lee tommy. she came along and we got along and it was amazing. the play had done a lot of regional, but it had never came to new york. it was almost like it was the time had come for it to make it to new york. >> and all those sisters on the stage, it is a beautiful thing to see. >> yeah, when i went to learning about what was happening in women and war and in liberia and our dear teacher gave me ken washington who's now passed, he came to teach and handed me a newspaper in new york times and said i know you are in these types of stories and yes, i am. it was the cover time and these women who were a fighter in liberia. i grew up in the continent.
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you cannot call it monolithic. i grew up there. seeing women literally soldiers of war and decked out and they had their ak-47 and i was like what is this? my mind was blown. i knew i had to signatupursue t story, it was four years later after my first play that i did. going to liberia and meeting those women and taking on that story and asking really their permission if i can tell it in some ways and sharing with them this is what i would like to do. that to me it became so clear that we don't hear their stories and everyone knew who charles taylor was. everybody knows the name of the big bad guy and those key players who goes to the treaties. nobody knows the name of the women or the girls who are
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casualties at war and whose bodies are used and fight upon. no one ever talks about them. that just became clear and clear to me that i was going to remove the male from the uh-huh. >> the title is about that, it is about their life being blocked. the hope in the entity is an eclipse is temporary. >> what is thas the play receiv? >> what does that say to you about -- i don't want to be over here -- what does that say of the changing nature of the way of stories of women of color are being received and processed? does it make sense? >> yes, what i found is that,
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there is been a degree of increase. i started -- >> significant or just slight? >> it could be significant. >> okay. >> okay. >> the jury is still out. when i started to write stories around, it was clear to me what i was going to do. my vision and calling, it is very clear to me and it was all about, i am telling african-american stories and black women stories. nobody needs manye to tell whit guy's story. it is just as interesting and complex and compelling and resonance as everybody else's stories. for some reason, we don't hear it enough. for me, it was my passion and it was clear. i knew and my first place, for instance, two hander, i cocreated with the woman i was in high school was. she's from here in los angeles and she found out the statistics
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around hiv of african-american women and she was floored. i grew up in zimbawi. i knew something in your gut that tells you the lack is needed everyone though it is not known yet. the idea is i am going to tell a story and i believe the response is to them. once they are there, people realize they need to pay attention to. it is kind of where i left from in terms of "the leave of faith." i always had those thoughts in my head. these needs are there and they'll be recognized when they are experienced. and so coming through now with eclipse, there is a lot of response to me as a writer and received a lot of interest in
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terms of how people are like of me working on different things and writing wise. i had a lot of things and there are things that have interest zg there are things that i cannot do it all and that's what i feel to do next. but, it makes sense to me, i guess because i kind of feel like i forsaw, the deficiency of the story or the lack of them makes no sense. if you were to say why are there stories that's focusing on african-american experience or black experience or african-american females or color of experience. why is there so few? >> you cannot give me a reason that makes any sense. you really cannot. to me, it makes no sense than it is to be changed. it does not surprise me when the response comes. >> you are a bit modest in a sense that it takes a great deal of courage and conviction and commitment to write something which has yet to be celebrated,
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to write something which have yet to find an audience. you were courageous to do that. in a real sense, you want a loan, you were just there first. you got there first and the rest of us caught up with the story, that takes a great deal of, takes a strong constitution to see that they might not get this now. if i write this in a year or two or three or four or five, no catch up to it and they'll get it. that takes a lot of, you know, a lot of -- yeah. >> yeah, i guess? i kind of don't know how to be. i was raised in an academic home where you follow what you are passionate about. my father is a fantastic teacher, '76, he's still teaching at the university of wisconsin. he believes in the minds of each individuals and finding their paths their way and there is a
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greatness in them. i was never shoulder you should be this or that. what i was told is that be excellent in what you do and find out who you are. >> people are always chasing comers. and that anonoys me. >> when i come across young artists like during the clips, there was a lot of acts. i would have young artists coming up to me and they would be like, people are saying that i should not write this because if i do this, people would not respond to it. to me, that sounds insane. you are the artist and you define the path and you create it, you are the creator. these people, who are they and how are they speaking into the specifics of your calling and definition of your purpose. why are they telling you what it is? you can only tell what it is and you manifest it. you have to -- the idea of being
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clipped, that early, it is like you are being edited even before you get it out. and i believe in collaboration and i have collaborators, i have a village where my work goes after i start to get it out and i hear the feedback and i see what i am trying to do and what's not working and i all believe in that. you got to get it out first and you got to know and do it with freedom and you cannot create art without freedom and cannot create it without an understanding that there is something in you that must be said and must be said of the way you must be a vessels for for . there is a lot in that that's scary, the commerce's pursuit, you are looking at things that's happening before. >> that's why it always cracks me up. you know the story well. when you ask someone in town, what's the project's like? well, it is across between this
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or this. >> right. >> that's the only thing that the suits has it where we are here so that going able of the story like yours that you cannot say it is of across between this and this. >> right, right. >> again, that takes a lot of to your point creativity to be able to not just come up with the idea but to write the story and sell the story to get people to understand the story. >> yeah, it was -- i won't lie, it was quite scary. my manager james was there today and i did my first reading of it. there is people like the mccarter theater, they help me find that grant to get to liberia and do the research and come back, okay, we'll do a public reading on the 23rd of october. that's basically the deadline. like there were people coming to sit down and watch this thing i created.
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the process is petrifying. you are using the word ca courageous. i was watching this reading, it was the first time of my work being read without doing it. i was sitting in the audience with my manager james and i was shuttering. he thought i had bad shrimps because i was shaking watching these coming to life in these women's bodies. at the end, the reading got a standing ovation and i could not quite put it together like i was like -- what just happened? >> it was so shocking but i realized that the premise was a mad scientist, of my hypothesis, if the right elements are there, it is a
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strong story or if it is a strong character, true human experience. all those things that are in place. i don't care which part of the world or what color or what gender in front of you. that's my story telling around my african stories.& do the little hypothesis worked? >> the jury is no longer out. i got two-minutes to go. first, tell me about your work with these girls? >> oh, that's something that i created because impassion nate about women and girls and the issues around the world concerning women around the world. i was born on valentine's day and my name means to be loved. i want to bring something around valentine's day.
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i was like, love needs to go and everyone is wayiiting for their thing. once you get it, what is it going to be? the girls around the world need our love and attention. every month, i highlighted organizations and release news letter and encouragements to take pledges and spreading awareness helping women and girls. >> lastly, not that you can say much. i cannot let you go without saying the two words "black panther." >> so many beautiful thing being apart of that. i grew up as a little girl in the continent. we did not see black people on that platform being super heroes and taking care of things and having that sort of resonance and to be apart of that and see
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it is something that i would love to watch it and the fact that i am apart of it is amazing to me. >> it is stunning. you are doing great work across the board. >> good night from los angeles, thank you for watching and as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show, visit tavissmile tavissmiley @pbs.org. >> join me next time about walter isaacson of his latest on leonardo da vinci.
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and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley, as president trump decides to visit asia, many are worried that he is looking at war because of his boasts and name calling. many fear the u.s. will become involved in a major conflict in the coming years, tonight, a conversation with yale law school professor, oona hathaway, about the possibility for war and peace, and then deepak chopra, with his piece inspired by american immigrants and he will also talk about the stars in his new york times best seller. we're glad you joined us, all of that coming up in just a moment.

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